The St. Louis Cardinals return home with a 20-11 record and a 3.5 game lead over the Cincinnati Reds. They welcome the Atlanta Braves to town in the first of a three-game set.
There are some subplots to the series. The Cardinals are retiring former manager Tony La Russa’s number 10 prior to tonight’s game. Braves third baseman Chipper Jones will be making his final appearances at Busch Stadium. Jones announced before the regular season began that he would be retiring at the end of the season. It’s the first series between the teams since the Cardinals caught the Braves in last season’s NL Wild Card chase.
On the field the Braves enter the series just a half game out of first place in the NL East. They are finishing out a nine-game road trip in St. Louis. The pitching matchups look to be very good this weekend. Jaime Garcia is set to face off against Mike Minor tonight. On Saturday, Adam Wainwright takes on Brandon Beachy. In the series finale, Lance Lynn looks to move to 7-0, while the Braves counter with Tommy Hanson.
BRAVES STATISTICAL LEADERS (among qualifiers)
- AVG – Michael Bourn (.319)
- Runs – Freddie Freeman (22)
- HR – Freeman (6)
- RBI – Freeman (26)
- OPS – Bourn (.924)
- SB – Bourn (11)
- IP – Hanson (39.2)
- Wins – Hanson, Beachy (3)
- ERA – Beachy (1.62)
- WHIP – Beachy (0.95)
- K’s – Hanson, Minor (34)
- Saves – Craig Kimbrel (10)
TODAY’S TALE OF THE TAPE
MY TWO CENTS
For what it’s worth, the Braves will be the best team the Cardinals have faced this season. There is also the revenge factor the Braves must be feeling after losing a 10.5 game lead to the Cardinals for the NL Wild Card spot last year. It’s as big a series you can have 30-plus games into the season.
For each team the series could set the tone for any possible matchup in the 2012 postseason. The Cardinals are going to need to be wary of Bourn, one of the few natural base-stealers in the game, and second-year first baseman, Freeman who leads the team in runs, HRs, and RBIs. The Braves have yet to get the expected production out of Brian McCann and Jones is fighting through his final season, but each seemingly comes up big in important spots.
Winning this series is not going erase the bad taste in the Braves’ mouths, but it could help ease the pain, knowing they can go toe to toe with the National League’s top team. For the Redbirds, a series win will validate their record as they’ve been stomping on mostly mediocre teams to date. Either way, it sets up for a very good baseball series.
Tags: Adam Wainwright Atlanta Braves Brandon Beachy Brian McCann Cardinals Chipper Jones Cincinnati Reds Craig Kimbrel Freddie Freeman Jaime Garcia Jersey Retirement Lance Lynn Michael Bourn Mike Minor Number Retired St Louis Cardinals Tommy Hanson Tony La Russa